Scientists at the Atlantic Veterinary College say their research mapping Prince Edward Island shellfish could contain any future diseases or invasive species.
Two scientists have spent the past year creating a map that tracks the complex journey of mussels, clams, and oysters.
“Oysters and mussels and clams are moved very, very frequently and they're moved almost everywhere,” said researcher Jeff Davidson.
He said the path Canadian shellfish take from the ocean floor to the consumer’s plate has never been formally mapped out.
So when a disease or parasite is discovered in a population, like the microscopic parasite MSX in Cape Breton oysters 10 years ago, officials are left scrambling to find out where it started and spread.
“We're behind with other industries. The beef industries, the dairy industry, the pork, any of the land based industries have had this for quite a period of time,” said Davidson.
He teamed up with Javier Sanchez, a specialist in the spread of disease, to start mapping.
The pair got $20,000 in federal funding.
They spent the past year talking to shellfish growers, buyers, processors and fisheries officials to connect the dots.
“There's a lot of connectivity, so the purpose of our study is to see if an invasive species enters in one point, what are the highest risk places this is going to go,” said Sanchez.
Their next step is to turn these complex maps into an interactive program that people in the industry can easily use.
“It would allow them, instead of having a blanket shutdown if something does occur, they may be looking at different areas and saying, ‘Okay we have to shut this area down, but not this area,’” said Davidson.
The AVC scientists say their research has the support of P.E.I.'s Shellfish Association and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which ultimately would like to see a Canada-wide shellfish network.